The Energy Edge

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Spring Cleaning Energy Efficiency Checklist

This winter may have been mild, but that doesn’t minimize the thrill that comes from being able to finally throw open your windows. Here are a few tips to refresh your home after the winter — and to help reduce your energy usage.

Improve your lighting (part 1)

Keeping your home closed up during the winter can result in a dusty residue on lampshades, blinds, and curtains. This layer of dust can actually decrease the amount of light you see. Vacuum or wash your lampshades, window curtains, and window blinds for an illuminated improvement.

Improve your lighting (part 2)

While you’re working on the lighting situation, take this opportunity to exchange your incandescent bulbs with LEDs for 25 to 80% more efficient light. If you need convincing, you can use this handy LED savings calculator to see what your specific energy cost savings could be.

Freshen your air

Spring is the perfect time to ensure your HVAC systems are in top shape, since you don’t need to run your furnace or air conditioning. And getting someone to clean your ducts and vents can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling for the rest of the year. While you’re at it, change out the furnace filter to ensure your systems don’t work too hard when they are on.

Pro tip: Dusting your ceiling fans can also improve the efficiency of moving air through your home.

Confirm your safety

Now’s also a good time to replace the batteries in your smoke alarm & carbon monoxide (CO) detector. If you don’t have a reliable CO detector, consider some of the products on the market that combine the two. Or, check out our home protection product that includes an intelligent combo along with a suite of budget-saving protection plans.

Clean your appliances

Moving into the kitchen, specifically, many of the electronic components you use to prepare and preserve food could really use a nice cleaning after the winter thaw. It’s easy to see that ovens, toasters, and microwaves all perform more efficiently when clean. Just make sure to unplug your appliances before scrubbing them down.

Update your kitchen

Before spending money to make your kitchen work better, try using some elbow grease! Clean your range-hood vent and wash or change its carbon filter if necessary. Show your refrigerator some love, too by vacuuming the coils behind or underneath it. Or if it’s time, exchange older appliance models for new ENERGY STAR rated models.

Do your laundry

Another big energy user in your home is in the laundry room. Dryers can consume massive amounts of energy even when they are brand new, but give them a long winter of neglect and they could be costing you even more. Clean out the dryer vent ductwork and lint trap to bring the dryer back to optimum efficiency.

Address your exterior

To really enjoy the outside this spring, tour your home with energy-efficiency in mind. Hire a chimney sweep to clean and inspect your flue if you have a working fireplace. They will check for leaks and buildup that might cause issue in the fall and winter. Clean your gutters and wipe down the soffit vents (the grills under your roofline). The clean vents will ensure proper air-flow in your attic which can be especially important in the summer. And speaking of attics, check your attic fan. Remove any debris and make sure it’s working properly, or change it out for a solar-powered attic fan to do double duty for your home’s efficiency.

With this checklist, you can give your home the spring cleaning it really needs while helping your energy budget for the entire year.

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Greening Up for March Madness

Stadiums, rinks, and arenas are among the highest energy usage buildings of our day. But, thankfully, sports programs are catching on and making some really great strides with energy efficiency. In fact, within the NCAA, there are a number of arenas that top the charts with respect to their energy efficiency.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as U.S. campuses have long been pioneers in sustainability initiatives. For instance, the recycling program at the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder is more advanced than any other program across the country. CU is also leading the way in energy efficiency with their multi-point attack on campus energy hogs. Swapping outdated lighting with more efficient LEDs, solar panels installed across the campus, and an advanced HVAC system all work to make this school more energy efficient.

These small changes adding up to big energy savings seems to be the name of the game. You can see it across the campuses of the NCAA; Syracuse University is changing all their exit signs with LEDs, Duke University offers CFL bulbs to incoming freshmen for their personal lamps, University of Florida schedules temperature set-backs to reduce HVAC use in unoccupied buildings.

You can read more about eight of the most highly-efficient campuses here.

Along the lines of basketball and energy, many professional teams are leading the way in creating a more sustainable future, as well. These NBA stadiums are going green with high-efficiency lighting, water-saving features, ENERGY STAR® rated equipment, and sustainable building practices.

Most notable is the AmericanAirlines Arena—home of Miami Heat; which is the first Gold LEED certified sports and entertainment arena in the world.

So as you watch the courts this March, remember that even your favorites sports teams pay attention to their energy efficiency.

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The Secret Life of Electricity: Part II of Know Your Energy

At IGS Energy, we work with energy every day and thought you might enjoy learning some of the lesser-known facts about the resources you use to power your life. What do you really know about the electricity you use every day? Try sharing these fun facts at your next get-together:

An indirect resource.

Electricity is unlike any other energy that we consume. For starters, it is always a secondary product—as in: you can’t grow, mine, or “catch” electricity. In fact, with the exception of Solar Photovoltaics (PV), every way we generate electricity is by moving a turbine. Coal, natural gas, and even giant nuclear power plants are essentially just super-powered water heaters, converting water into steam to turn a turbine.

Short lifespan.

One of the hardest things about dealing with electricity is that we have yet to find a good way to store it. While oil, natural gas, and even coal can all be stored for use whenever needed, electricity degrades too quickly to keep for any length of time. This means that whenever a light switch is turned on, there needs to be a ready supply of freshly generated electricity to meet the demand.

The dangerous balancing act.

Much like walking a tightrope, utilities have to keep the generation of electricity in constant balance with the demand. If generation and demand aren’t in balance, the risks are either a power blackout—if there isn’t enough electricity to meet the demand, or a dangerous explosion if there is too much. The fast-moving energy has to go somewhere and will create its own path if not provided one.

Split personality.

Electricity has another trait unlike any other resource: inherent in the moving electrons that create electricity are two “personalities”. These two personalities are called amps and volts, respectively. Simply put, amps are the “flow”, or current of the moving electrons, whereas volts represent the power or “force” that each of those electrons carry.

Using the practical illustration of a wheelbarrow, amps would be like the speed that comes with pushing an empty wheelbarrow and volts would be the force needed to push a full wheelbarrow. So, high amperage is fast moving electricity while higher voltage contains more powerful electrons than low voltage. Now, all these electrons moving are actually doing something: when combined, the speed and force (amps and volts) do work. And we measure that work in watts.

More than meets the eye.

Using the electron’s dual personality, electricity can also be transformed. Moving electrons creates things like heat, light, and magnetic fields. By capturing the magnetic properties of electricity, power companies are able to change how those electrons behave. Remember the wheelbarrow? Transformers can steal the speed part of electricity to make more force, and vice versa. This allows your utility to adjust the electricity coming from the generating plants to the right speed and force for your appliances.

Keeping things current.

There’s one last secret about electricity that bears being explored. Your phone, laptop, clock, and most solid-state electronics (typically devices with circuit boards) work off of a steady flow of electrons called Direct Current (or DC). But to make transporting electricity more efficient, the power that comes through your wall is like a back-and-forth pulse of electrons called Alternating Current (AC). Most electronic devices have transformers—or adapters—that change the AC into Direct Current by using those same secret dueling properties of electricity.

To learn more about how the power comes to your home, check out our Electricity 101 PDF.

Sources: http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/how_it_works/transformer.html
http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/question558.htm

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  • The Philadelphia Zoo uses natural gas to cool a greenhouse for one of the most endangered birds in the world, the Micronesian Kingfishers.
  • Creating salt from sea water is also one of the oldest uses of solar energy.
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